54 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
ness and serpent-like wisdom, are attributes of the old rogue.
In one word we recognize the necessity of human effort,
but we also admit the futility of it. This general attitude of
mind has a tendency to develop passive defence tactics.
"Great things can be reduced into small things, and small
things can be reduced into nothing." On this general principle
all Chinese disputes are patched up, all Chinese schemes are
readjusted, and all reform programmes are discounted until
there are peace and rice for everybody. "One bid is not so
good as one pass," so runs another of our proverbs, which
means the same thing as "Let well enough alone," and "Let
sleeping dogs lie."
Human life moves on, therefore, on the line of least struggle
and least resistance. This develops a certain calmness of mind,
which enables one to swallow insults and to find oneself in
harmony with the universe. It develops also certain defence
tactics which can be more terrible than any tactics of aggression.
When one goes to a restaurant and feels hungry, but the food
does not come, one can repeat the order to the boy. If the boy
is rude, one can complain to the management and do some-
thing about it. But if the boy replies in the most elegant manner,
"Coming! coming!" and does not move a step, one can do
absolutely nothing except pray or curse in the most elegant
manner also. Such, in brief, is the passive strength of the
Chinese people, a strength which those who are made to feel
most will appreciate best. It is the strength of the old rogue.
So far we have been dealing with three of the worst character-
istics that paralyse the Chinese people for organized action.
These characteristics are seen to spring from a general view of
life, as shrewd as it is mellow, distinguished by a certain
tolerant nonchalance. It is evident that such a view of life is
not without its virtues, and they are the virtues of an old
people, not ambitious nor keen to sit on top of the world, but
a people whose eyes have seen much of life, who are prepared
to accept life for what it is worth, but who insist nevertheless